1. Parting Gifts
“Look after yourself, Little Brother – don’t forget to take your nose out of your books now and again.”
“Take care – don’t get side-tracked by too many laughing eyes or easy skirts!”
They held each other close in an affectionate bear-hug, Boromir thumping Faramir’s back with hearty blows that made his brother’s chest vibrate when he spoke quietly, privately, in Boromir’s ear.
“Come home safely – we need you.”
“Never doubt it – I will return to you, no matter what,” his brother whispered in return.
They slowly released each other, but still stood close, reluctant to admit it, but knowing the inevitable parting was upon them, and neither knew for how long. Boromir leaned forward, clapped his brother’s shoulders in his great hands, and briefly shook him.
“Little Bookworm… I love you, brother!” he murmured hoarsely.
Faramir gripped his brother’s arms, “I love you too – you old goat!”
Boromir threw his head back and laughed that great open laugh that endeared him to men and made maidens sigh for even a few moments of dalliance. He gripped Faramir’s shoulders once, turned, strode to his horse and vaulted onto its back. He gathered up the reins held by a waiting groom, and saluted.
“The North wind will blow me back; look for me in the spring rains, Little Brother!”
Faramir held his hand high, palm out in benediction, and called out, “I packed you something to make sure! Just don’t loose it, or break it, Brother Mine!”
Boromir was gone; his last brief shout lingering on the wind behind him: “Check your saddle-bags, Bookworm!”
Faramir returned to his own horse, saddled and ready for the return to Ithilien. His saddlebags were on the paved yard were he’d left them, but he noticed that one was unbuckled. Faramir frowned slightly, knowing he’d not left it like that, and lifted the flap. Lodged in the top was a neat shape, bound in dark, pliable leather, tied with thongs that were double-sewn hard into the butter-soft skins. He undid the neat knots, recognising them as his brother’s; folding back the covers he found smooth white pages… It was a book of cunning design, the soft binding overlapping the paper’s edges, sufficient so that they would completely cover the pages within when tied with the stout leather thongs. Yet the whole was supple enough so the book could be curled without the bindings cracking when stuffed into a pack. He riffled the pale pages; a note fell loose, written in Boromir’s bold hand:
A little something for the evenings! Since I know you won’t fall pray to longing looks. Draw me some sparrows, I know you love them, and whatever else you think I’d find of interest. I shall look for a book full on my return!
The book’s inner pages held neat, clear script, carefully scribed in bold, black ink so as to be easily read by candlelight. Faramir tilted the page – waterproof ink at that! He could see the slight sheen on each letter. Boromir had gone to the trouble of having Faramir’s favourite poem written into a travelling volume, with wide borders and many blank pages at the back so Faramir might fill the margins with drawings. He smiled at his seemingly nonchalant elder brother’s accurate choice of what might please him most.
He read the title: ‘The Lay of Leithian’ – that meant he must have gone to Amah and gotten her to find a scribe to translate the work… or was it actually written by an elf, in Westron? He turned the cunningly worked leather binding over in his hands; it was smooth and supple, each tiny stitch of waxed linen even, without a break. Tooled into the cover was a field of raised stars, a subtle pattern under his fingertips. A fresh smile broke across his face – if Boromir had gone to Amah - He shook his head. She had not mentioned it, and she was the one who had also obtained Faramir’s parting gift to his brother!
Boromir rode steadily for as many hours as he could before the need to dismount and stretch cramped limbs forced him from his horse. He had headed north to the Great Road that then swung away westward, skirting the foot of the mountains, heading towards Rohan – his thoughts leapt at the word and a smile curled his lips… for Rohan meant Théodred! Even if only for a brief while to change horses and replenish his supplies. They would manage to have a few hours together to exchange news and speak privately of the gathering storms in the East. He sighed.
Hunger made him unbuckle his pack before he remounted; he’d a fancy for cheese, and one of the apples he’d stuffed into the top at the last minute. As he delved inside, his fingertips slid over a package he wasn’t expecting, a hard leather case, round and rigid, made of thick hide. Lifting it out, he opened the buckle and teased out a tightly wedged packet of smooth vellum folded neatly around something heavy and solid. He teased back the many folds and found, first a little drawing of the view from the shipwall, over the Pelennor towards Osgiliath, the sky serene above the distant jagged peaks. Then a sketch of their mother’s garden; Echthelion’s tower at sunset, the bustle of the Second Circle market… a beautiful depiction of two sparrows perched on the wall of the Houses’ garden, with the Anduin beyond, snaking over the plain… These were all Faramir’s lovingly executed drawings, each carefully inked so as not to fade The final fold made Boromir gasp with delight; for inside its vellum wrapping was a polished bronze compass – a rarity even among the wealth of Minas Tirith!
He held it flat, staring at the beautiful workmanship of the object that almost filled his open palm. Under the crystal that sealed the top, a slender needle of lodestone flickered back and forth on its central pin like a questing insect, until the red-lacquered point hovered gently, pointing to the symbol for North. Sixteen divisions, polished lines on the white enamelled dial, each point identified with letters, were cast into the bronze. Under his fingertips he could feel the same letters under the base at the edge, raised to be felt in the dark. He lifted it to eye-level, around the vertical edge of the shallow cylinder images of fire, swirling water, a tree for Arda and a face blowing hard, cheeks puffed, all cast deeply into the metal. Not only decorative, but they provided a grip for slippery hands that might be cold or wet, Boromir noted approvingly, admiring the intricate designs.
Turning it over he saw across the underside the patterns of the stars were engraved as tiny facetted dots, each proportionate to its brightness in the night-sky. Momentarily he raised the compass, and found to his delight another cunning arrangement in the design – when held to a light, the stars were illumined through the translucent enamel so their pattern could be more easily read at night. Such exquisite craftsmanship…Surely this had not been made by Men? Boromir could only guess at its origin, perhaps even the legendary metalwork of the Dwarves! But then he laughed aloud when he realised they must have both gone secretly to the same source to each obtain a parting gift for the other!
He glanced down at Faramir’s drawings and found one last surprise from his beloved brother. Where the compass had lain was a finely drawn face, the hair blowing in the wind, eyes sparkling with mischief, the lips crooked in that familiar half-smile that could erupt into laughter at any moment – Théodred! He must have sat for Faramir to draw him at some time; he could scarce believe his brother could have drawn such a subtle and accurate likeness from memory. And trust Faramir to be so practical - gifting him a compass, and so sentimental in also giving him scenes from home. Boromir smiled as he carefully folded the vellum into a square and tucked it back deep into his saddlebag. The compass he put back into its leather case and stowed as well – at present he knew his way, but in times to come…? Who could know? He remounted, gave a heavy sigh of contentment, and headed towards the lowering sun.
Miles away south in Ithilien, the rangers had made camp for the night. The watch apportioned, supper being readied, Faramir took a moment to walk. The crescent Moon was rising among threaded rags of cloud, seeming to hang for the moment, caged by the bare boughs of a long ago lightning-struck tree. The old trunk writhed, its deeply ridged trunk bubbling from the ground. Faramir cocked his head, smiled to himself; he untied the thongs of his new book and turned to a blank page. Twisting the length of graphite in its slender brass case until a point emerged; he sat on a rock and began to draw. He would have much to show Boromir when he returned.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.